Sunday, November 16, 2008

Give Until it Feels Good

Remember that old saying, “Give until it hurts” in fund raising campaigns? A lot of churches picked up on that and seemed to make “pounding” a giving spirit into parishioners the status quo. Isn’t it sad that most churchgoers have to be “motivated” through some sort of special program or by constant begging in order for them to give into the work of the gospel?

It seems that, for many Christians, religious practices (such as tithes and offerings) are carried out in a spirit of obligation, rather than a spirit of love or worship. In this study, I would like to look at one specific (and often overlooked) aspect of Christian giving. That is... our attitude.

Have you ever paused to check your motivation for the things that you do? For example... why do you come to church? Do you attend to worship in the presence of the Lord, enjoying fellowship with the saints, or do you come because you’re afraid that God will get mad at you if you don’t. Do you come because you heard that a good husband or wife could be found amongst the ranks of churchgoers? Do you come because your parents threaten to whip you if you don’t? Do you come because it’s the “traditional” thing to do?

Giving seems to be one of the most sensitive issues in today’s Christian church. In many churches, elaborate schemes have to be devised to keep levels of giving up, otherwise the church would collapse under the weight of such expenses as utilities and staff salaries. While the financial support of the gospel ministry is important, how far should church leaders have to go to get their parishioners to give. It would seem logical to assume that most believers recognize the value of giving. The question is, have we somehow missed the true joy in giving.
While there are several scriptures in the Old and New Testaments that are appropriate to the subject of giving, I would like to concentrate on one in particular. In the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 26, we see God’s instructions to the children of Israel regarding their tithes. An understanding of this passage can help illuminate our attitudes toward giving.

Keep in mind that these instructions were given to the Israelites for implementation upon entering the land of promise. You may be wondering, “How does this apply to me?” As a New Testament (or, New Covenant) believer, we can look at the precepts given in the Old Testament from the vantage point of the dispensation of grace and find the doorway to great blessing.

In verse one, the Lord says:

1 And it shall be, when thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possessest it, and dwellest therein;

The children of Israel came into their land thousands of years ago. So, how does this verse apply to us? If you were to read Colossians 1:12-13, you would see that God (through Jesus) has made us meet (fit or qualified) to be partakers of the inheritance. What inheritance? The blessings that He promised to Abraham. Those blessings were passed on to both Abraham’s natural seed (Israel) and to his spiritual seed (the body of Christ).
The blessings are capsulized in Genesis 12:2-3, where God says that Abraham will not only be blessed, but that he would also be a blessing to all nations. As we take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and sheltering the homeless - in addition to meeting their other spiritual, physical and emotional needs - we are fulfilling this promise. As a result of our obedience, God will give us additional seed to sow into the lives of others, leaving us with more than enough to have our needs met (see 2nd Corinthians 9:6-10).

Additional insight into the blessings that pertain to us can be found in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. We inherit all of the blessings, but none of the curses of the law (such as those in verses 15-68 of Deut. 28). Why? Because when Jesus made us partakers of the inheritance, He also redeemed us from the curse (see Galatians 3:13-14 and Ephesians 3:6).

Keeping all of the above in mind, you can see how we can assume the blessings in Deuteronomy 26 since we (through Christ) have come into the promised land (spiritually speaking). If you’re still not completely clear on this, take a look at Ephesians 1:5-14 and Colossians 3:1-4.

Let’s move on in Deuteronomy 26:

2 That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place His name there.

When this scripture was written, tithes consisted largely of the harvest of animals and/or produce. In today’s society, we deal primarily in money. Therefore, our “harvest” (in this application) would be our weekly paycheck.

Moving on in our main text:

3 And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us.

During those days, the people brought their tithes before the priest. When we bring our tithes and offerings into the church, we are bringing them before our High Priest. No, I’m not referring to the Pastor. Jesus is our High Priest. He sits on the right hand of God the Father and makes intercession for us (see Romans 8:34). Also reference the following scriptures in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 2:17-18
17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto [his] brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things [pertaining] to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Hebrews 3:1
1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast [our] profession.
15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as [we are, yet] without sin.
16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

When you bring your tithes and offerings on Sunday morning, you’re not just bringing a money to the church. You are actually bringing a holy offering before Jesus, your High Priest. When you form that picture in your mind, your attitude about giving changes dramatically.

Now, let’s continue on with our main text:

4 And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord thy God.
5 And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
6 And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
7 And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression:
8 And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
9 And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.

When the children of Israel brought their offerings, they paused to think about how far their forefathers (specifically, Jacob) had come and where the Lord had brought them. When you bring your tithes into the house of the Lord, pause to think about how far God has brought you. You didn’t always have the money to buy the type of home you own... the type of car you drive. Think back to when you first started with your company. Or, when you did your National Service and went through basic training, how you thought you would never get out of there alive!

The point being, don’t take your present level of blessings for granted. Even if you are waiting on the Lord to improve your situation in a certain area, you’re probably a lot better off now than you were several years ago.
Maybe your parents never had the educational opportunities that you’ve enjoyed. Whatever the situation, it pays to think back over how far God has brought you. As you recognize His hand in your life, begin to worship Him for His faithfulness. Praise Him for how He always keeps His promises. Then, trust Him to take you even further.

In Psalm 22:3, we see that God inhabits our praises. When you bring your tithes and offerings before God in a spirit of worship and praise, you are allowing God to get into your finances. There, He can bless you and give you the wisdom to glorify Him in your financial dealings.

10 And now, behold, I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God:
11 And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.
12 When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled;
13 Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, and the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them:

Verse 13 shows us that the tithe is a hallowed (holy) thing. It should be sanctified (set apart) from the rest of your funds. It shouldn’t sit in your bank account. Don’t use it for paying bills, buying lottery tickets, or eating at McDonalds. Hurry to get it into God’s house where it may be used to bless others.

14 I have not eaten thereof in my mourning, neither have I taken away aught thereof for any unclean use, nor given aught thereof for the dead: but I have hearkened to the voice of the Lord my God, and have done according to all that thou hast commanded me.

In Verse 14, we see that the tithes weren’t to be used during a period of mourning. Perhaps you may at one point in your life face an “emergency” situation where finances get tight. You may attempt to rationalize that since it’s an emergency, “God will understand that I cannot couldn’t give tithes.”

The truth is, when an emergency hits and your ability to pay the bills is in question, that’s the best time to bring your tithes to the Lord. What you want to do is to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness... trusting that the other things will come in their time (see Matthew 6:33).

15 Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel, and the land which thou hast given us, as thou swarest unto our fathers, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
16 This day the Lord thy God hath commanded thee to do these statutes and judgements: thou shalt therefore keep and do them with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.
17 Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgements, and to hearken unto His voice.
18 And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments;
19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honor; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken.

In closing, we should remember that tithing shouldn’t be an obligation that we obey grudgingly or out of fear. Nor should it become a meaningless ritual that we perform out of force or habit... Sunday after Sunday.
The tithe should be a time to give diligently (see Proverbs 10:4), to give cheerfully or hilariously (see 2nd Corinthians 9:7), to give with praise, thanksgiving and rejoicing. Why? Because God has promised us many blessings! Read 2nd Corinthians 9:6, Proverbs 19:17 and Luke 6:38. And remember, God always keeps His promises (see Numbers 23:19, I Samuel 15:29, John 14:2 and Hebrews 6:18).

The next time you bring tithes before the Lord, don’t give grudgingly, feeling that if you don’t give, God will punish you. Don’t give only because you expect to get something in return. Let your giving be an act of love, worship, devotion and praise. Trust God to do what He has already promised!

Deuteronomy Chapter 14
22 Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed, that the field bringeth forth year by year.
23 And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always.
24 And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it; [or] if the place be too far from thee, which the LORD thy God shall choose to set his name there, when the LORD thy God hath blessed thee:
25 Then shalt thou turn [it] into money, and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose:
26 And thou shalt bestow that money for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the LORD thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household, {desireth: Heb. asketh of thee}
27 And the Levite that [is] within thy gates; thou shalt not forsake him; for he hath no part nor inheritance with thee.
28 At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay [it] up within thy gates:
29 And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which [are] within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.

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